Welcome back to Spark! It’s been a while, and I had many adventures that took me away from writing, but it’s time I got back into it. Since I last ended with a “personal note” explaining my upcoming absence, I’ll return with another such.
I left my writing last year to work for the Hillary Clinton campaign, something that I may write more about in days to come. Despite the disappointment of the results, the shock and dismay that, yes, people actually did vote for that, I have to say that my time on the campaign was, quite simply, “the toughest job I ever loved.” I worked 12-16 hour days, every single day for about 80 days in a row. I met some great volunteers in my area, and some amazing fellow organizers and campaign staff. Whatever some (including Sen. Bernie Sanders) have said about Hillary suffering an enthusiasm gap, those at least that came to the campaign were very enthusiastic, full of energy, and ready to fight. In the upcoming couple of years, as my state of Michigan gets ready for a gubernatorial and state senate race (not to mention the race for state and US representatives) in 2018, this kind of enthusiasm will be needed to take back our state government from those, like the DeVos family and the Republican administration of Governor Snyder, who have sold off the public good to the corporate hunger for cheap resources. Michigan has great Democrats, liberals, progressives, ready to fight for what we believe in and to build our City on a Hill. This campaign built an amazing team in Michigan, and I was proud to fight alongside them.
After the campaign, I took a brief break, and then was called back by the campaign to work – and then not – on the Michigan vote recount. Then, again, I went back home and perused my options. My wife and I took a great trip down south to visit some friends and family in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. And I’ve been slowly reinserting myself into the political life by attending events like the huge Rally to Defend Healthcare in Warren, MI, on January 15. This enormous rally (over 6,000 people braved Michigan’s 20-degree cold for this outdoor event) was addressed by Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, and Gary Peters; various Michigan state and US Representatives; Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood; and many private individuals chosen to share their stories of how the ACA saved their lives. This coming weekend, my family and friends will be descending on Washington, DC, to protest against the inauguration of He Who Shall Not Be Named.
In the meantime, I’ve been considering other career options, gathering thoughts on the numerous fights to come and which ones to apply my energies. I did not want to get back in with too much of a “think piece,” instead dipping back in with a soft parade of thoughts about where we go from here. As many of my campaign comrades are also taking it easy before we all dive back into this year’s local fights (for mayorial and other local campaigns coming up this year, as well as building a resistance mechanism to neutralize the Orange Office before it can get any momentum), I thought about maybe escaping with a movie. What should we watch?
How about 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate? Don’t know it? It’s a fanciful story, something almost impossible to conceive. A mindless conservative politician turns out to be controlled by political masterminds in Russia, and is Moscow’s tool for turning America from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian dictatorship. You see,… Oh. Awkward. Okay, right. Maybe not.
What about Red Dawn, then? The Russians invade, after the US withdraws from NATO and unsuspectingly opens its doors to its enemy. What’s that? Yeah, you’re right. Also a little too close for comfort.
I guess we should also rule out the 1980s TV miniseries, Amerika. The US is not so much “invaded,” as relatively peacefully taken over by the Russians and the KGB in the wake of a divisive election and the nation’s failure to remember why it cared so much about maintaining a democratic federal government. Yeah, not quite what we’re looking for in an “escape.”
Okay, let’s maybe step away from Cold War paranoia. How about a nice classic like Gone With the Wind? Can’t go wrong with a multiple Oscar-winner, right? A nice, relaxing story centering around a romance, that takes place during a turbulent time as our nation is torn between two sides fighting against each other, and systematized racial violence is kept quietly in the background… Okay, moving on, then.
Maybe instead of a movie, I’ll just watch some TV. Rather than focus on the present, maybe a nostalgic trip to the past on the History Channel. Hey, here we go! A documentary about a demagogic leader in the 1930s rising up amidst a populist movement, having no political leadership experience or knowledge whatsoever, but lying his way to political victory by blaming an ethnic group for his nation’s failure to experience the greatness that it should… Oh, for the love of… Really?
It’s like someone was trying to tell us something. If you want the longer version, you could of course choose to read The Federalist Papers. But our culture has been warning us for decades against exactly the thing that we let happen last year. And history has warned us about what happens when we let it go and assume it will all be okay at the end. What makes things “okay in the end” are the fighters for justice from our history, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose church in Atlanta I had the good fortune to visit last month, and whose mission we celebrated this past week (in the case of our next occupant of the White House, by insulting one of MLK’s most determined allies, Representative John Lewis of Georgia). And in the end, there is no “end.” History doesn’t get a period, but an ellipses. We have to keep fighting, even (especially) when we’ve won a great victory. MLK and John Lewis pushed the US into a variety of great reforms (and many half-assed ones); like the Voting Rights Act that last year was emasculated by a Supreme Court that this year (try not throw up) is going to get another justice added to it by our new Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief. A victory won can be lost down the road by complacence. We have to get back to fighting for the things we’ve won and are about to lose (or already have lost).
Now that I am back, I will be writing more about what we can do in the days ahead, and how we can fight the battles before we lose the war and before our nation sells its soul to its own devils. As Rachel Maddow likes to say, keep watching this space for more.
Thanks for your patience, and welcome back to Spark!
Headline image: Owen Roper, the author, Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D), and Tashawna Gill, on Election Day, 2016. © Sparkpolitical, 2017.